Originally created 01/03/01

Study suggests physical ailments more common in attention deficit



CHICAGO - Children with attention deficithyperactivity disorder receive more medical care than other youngsters for non-behavioral problems such as injuries, infections and asthma, Mayo Clinic researchers say.

However, it is unclear from the findings whether such youngsters really have more such medical problems or are simply diagnosed more often because they get closer attention from doctors.

The study looked at more than 4,000 children living near the Rochester, Minn., clinic. It was published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association. More than 300 of the youngsters had ADHD.

ADHD is thought to afflict between 4 percent and 12 percent of school-age children, or an average of about 2.5 million youngsters nationwide, mostly boys. Symptoms can include short attention span, impulsive behavior and difficulty focusing and sitting still.

Some studies have suggested that youngsters with ADHD are more likely to suffer injuries from such things as playground accidents and car crashes linked to their impulsive behavior. Others have speculated that such children may be somehow weaker and more vulnerable to infections.

The Mayo study found that 77 percent of the ADHD children had been treated for minor injuries, compared with 70 percent of the non-ADHD youngsters. Treatment for major injuries was 59 percent and 49 percent respectively. The types of injuries were not specified.

Twenty-two percent of the ADHD children had asthma, compared with 13 percent of the other youngsters.

Infections also were more common - 79 percent versus 73 percent. The types of infections were not specified.

The researchers offered no explanation for the findings.

They also acknowledged that the results may not apply to all ADHD children, since the region studied is mostly white with a higher than normal percentage of residents affiliated with the health-care industry.

Dr. James Perrin, an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, said ADHD children probably see doctors more often than other youngsters, and thus might be more likely to be diagnosed with another ailment.

On the Net:

JAMA: http://jama.ama-assn.org

National Attention Deficit Disorder Association: http://www.add.org